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Monday, January 4, 2021

Strasburg Railroad steam engine 90
Strasburg Railroad Steam Engine 90
(Click to enlarge)

"Stirring Up The Flame Of God"

Message summary: As we begin a new year it's a good time to examine ourselves. In the course of life the spiritual fire in our life can burn down a bit or at times a lot. We must continually be mindful of this and keep fanning into flame and stirring up the gift of God.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:6-7). "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11).

Coal stoveYesterday after our church service we visited with our friends in the old farmhouse. After playing several games of table tennis I took a look at the coal stove used to heat their house. Being a rather chilly day it was plenty warm inside (more so after playing some vigorous ping pong matches with teen-agers) though it was capable of putting out more heat depending on how much air was provided to the fire.

The coal is Pennsylvania anthracite coal, the same type we use in our coal stove. It's considered hard coal and has a very high carbon content allowing it to burn very hot and clean compared to soft coal known as bituminous.

Looking in at the blazing coals brought to mind a Scripture verse that I committed to memory early in my Christian walk; "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God". In fact one of the very first sermons I ever preached was based on this passage, I suppose in part due to the phrase, "fan into flame".

Stirring up fire
Anyone who has prepared a campfire for warming or cooking is fully aware that the fire needs to be stirred up occasionally. As long as the coals are glowing, they can be stirred up into a full blaze. In fanning the flame, it increases the oxygen and feeds the embers which then turns it into a blazing fire. When Brooksyne and I camped in our early years of marriage this is one of my first responsibilities each morning.

The key Greek word which is translated "fan into flame" is "anazopuro", which is in the present active indicating a continuing action. The sense is to stir up smoldering embers into a living flame. Other Bible versions vary slightly in the way they translate this word. The NASV states, "kindle afresh", the Amplified uses the phrase, "stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of,)" while the KJV merely states "stir up", which reminds me of when I would take a long stick and stir up the fire early the next morning! Clarence Jordon translates this verse, "I’m reminding you to shake the ashes off the God-given fire that’s in you."

John Wesley says this verb is "Literally, blowing up the coals into a flame".

General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, wrote, "The tendency of fire is to go out; watch the fire on the altar of your heart."

Warren Wiersbe, one of our favorite Bible teachers, who is now with the Lord, writes that, "Timothy did not need any new spiritual ingredients in his life; all he had to do was "stir up" what he already had. Paul had written in his first letter, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” (1 Timothy 4:14). Now he added, "Stir up—stir into flame—the gift of God".

Paul is urging Timothy to practice a necessary spiritual discipline vitally needed for all who follow Christ. In the course of life the fire can burn down a bit or at times a lot. We need to continually be mindful of this and keep fanning into flame and stirring up the gift of God.

Keith Green makes this petition in his song, "Oh Lord, You're Beautiful":

Oh Lord please light the fire,
that once burned bright and clear.
Replace the lamp of my first love,
that burned with holy fear.

Today as we begin the first day of the work week of a new year Brooksyne and I want to serve the Lord with renewed zeal and keep the fire burning within our hearts so that we are continually on fire for Christ. We are fully aware of how the fire can wane so we ask God's help that we would "never be lacking in zeal, keeping our spiritual fervor, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11). We urge each reader to do the same!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Father, I consider the depth of one's faith and how far-reaching it is when fleshed out in one's life. Timothy's sincere faith was due in great part to the influence of a godly grandmother and equally devoted mother. As we stay in communion with You through prayer and obedience to Your Holy Word we ask You to keep the flame of spiritual fire burning within our hearts. It is not just compliance to Your Word, but also fervency in our spirit that will convince others of their need to walk in Your ways so we want to never be lacking in zeal but keeping our spiritual fervor as we serve You all our days. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Additional study notes:

The Precept Austin Online commentary states, "Christians in America live in discouraging times when many in the so-called "church" have chosen to compromise truth for the sake of "unity", watering down the message of the Cross so as to make it less offensive and more seeker friendly. And although we are not (yet) being physically persecuted for our faith in America, we do see Biblical Christianity being attacked on virtually every front." 

The challenge for all is to keep the embers of our heart stoked to full blaze, so that we might be ready and able to resist the pressure to compromise truth and ready and willing to persevere to the end enduring hardship for the sake of the gospel, lest future generations be denied vital sound doctrine found only in the "Word of Truth". Every saint's prayer should be "Lord, find us faithful."

The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to build the fire of faith in our hearts. On the day Jesus rose from the dead He walked on the road to Emmaus with two disciples. After their eyes were "opened" they recognized who Jesus was and then He disappeared. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). A roaring fire emblazoned their hearts when they understood what Jesus taught them in the Scriptures.

Vance Havner notes four things that can smother the fire:

1. Willful sin will do it. Our Lord told us that the candle of testimony may be smothered by the bushel or the bed. The bushel stands for money making, the cares of business, the temporal concerns of this fife. The bed stands for luxury, ease, worldly pleasure, the sloth that so enervates the soul.

2. Neglect will smother the fire.  Leave the fire alone and it will burn low and the ashes will gather. If we neglect the means of grace, prayer, the Word, and holy exercise, we shall soon need a stirring.

3. Then, too, others can quench the Spirit and smother our fire. If [the Christian] allows it, men will tone him down, steal the joy of his salvation, and reduce him to the dreary level of the general average. If the devil cannot keep us from being saved, he next endeavors to make average Christians of us, and in this he usually succeeds… The devil does not mind our joining church if we behave like most of those who are already inside. But when a real, wide awake Christian breezes along, taking the Gospel seriously, the devil grows alarmed and begins plotting his downfall.

4. Certainly, fear can choke the fire. Paul says to Timothy in the very word next to the passage we are considering, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind." The man who hid his talent said, "I was afraid." The fires that fear has smothered: fear of the past or present or future, fear of others, of failure, of sickness, of death! Whatever fear you may have, it is not of God, for He hath not given us such a spirit.

Let us remember that stirring up the gift of God is our business. God will not do it for us. We must rouse ourselves from our lethargy and get down to business in prayer and feeding upon the Word and holy exercise.

It is related that in Scotland years ago, before the day of matches, the fires had gone out throughout a community. The people set out looking for someone who had a fire. At last, far up on a hillside, they found a humble home where the hearthstone glowed with cheery flame. Soon they were carrying coals here and there to replenish their own blackened fireplaces. Today there are weary hearts, discouraged souls, needy churches looking for a soul with a fire, someone who has kept aglow in spite of the world, the flesh and the devil.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Oh Lord, You're Beautiful"  Video  Keith Green

"Pass It On - It Only Takes A Spark"  Video  Eternity

Brooksyne's note: Yesterday, after church, we headed to Strasburg to visit with our friends as mentioned in our message. Just as we prepared to turn into their long driveway we saw a plume of smoke off in the distance and instead drove about 1/4 mile further to watch the Strasburg Railroad train go by. Ester and Stephen jumped out of the car and headed in two directions. While Stephen took a still shot of the approaching train Ester was taking a video! The steam, whistle, and waving engineer can all be heard or seen. 

Ester was showing the children on her phone after our arrival and they asked "How many train cars?" She ran the video again to find out, and it was delightful to hear the children count them one by one in unison including the three year old, reminding us of our younger years (and even now on occasion) when we counted the train cars anticipating the last car of a moving freight train, when we were sure to be greeted with a wave from the friendly brakeman. For nostalgia sake you might want to check out this site regarding "Whatever happened to the little red caboose?"

BTW: Stephen mentioned that he played three teens in Ping Pong and they were looking forward to beating their aging competitor. But when the 13 year old climbed up the stairs, looking winded and a little red in the face I asked, "So did you beat Stephen?" He slowly nodded his head. Anna Ruth, asked "How about the others, did they beat him?" Once again he nodded with disappointment. I didn't say it, but I was pretty proud that Stephen has it in him to still compete against young people and come out a winner. The secret: he puts a mean spin on the ball and usually beats me the same way.

Finally today:

Do you remember wondering as a child why blowing on a candle puts the fire out but blowing on a campfire makes the fire blaze?

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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